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Ginzan Onsen: 10 Things to Do & Where to Stay in One of Japan's Most Beautiful Hot Springs Towns

Ginzan Onsen: 10 Things to Do & Where to Stay in One of Japan's Most Beautiful Hot Springs Towns

Date published: 27 January 2020
Last updated: 17 May 2023

Ginzan Onsen is one of Japan's most popular onsen towns, nestled among the scenic mountains of Yamagata's Obanazawa City. Renowned as a favored hot springs destination for both locals from the Tohoku region and international travelers, this captivating location offers an unparalleled experience immersed in Japan's distinctive ambiance.

Join us as we introduce 15 things to see and do in Ginzan Onsen and uncover the best accommodations in this breathtaking destination.

Main image: PIXTA

Table of Contents
  1. One of Yamagata Prefecture's Best Hot Springs Villages
  2. Getting to Ginzan Onsen
  3. Winter is the Best Season to Visit Ginzan Onsen
  4. Top 10 things to do in Ginzan Onsen
  5. Staying at Ginzan Onsen: 5 Recommended ryokan hotels
  6. No matter the season, Ginzan Onsen is worth the trip!

One of Yamagata Prefecture's Best Hot Springs Villages

Ginzan Onsen is filled with quaint ryokan inns and other buildings that will spirit you away to a magical world
Ginzan Onsen is filled with quaint ryokan inns and other buildings that will spirit you away to a magical world

Located in the northern part of Japan, Ginzan Onsen is in Yamagata Prefecture in the Tohoku area.

Yamagata itself is generously sprinkled with hot springs, with nearly every town and village boasting at least one.

Among these, Ginzan Onsen in Obanazawa City stands out as a particularly renowned destination. Constructed between the 1920s and 1930s, the amalgamation of numerous wooden ryokan structures gave birth to the onsen town that attracts countless visitors from across Japan today.

One of the primary allures of Ginzan Onsen lies in its architectural design and enchanting atmosphere, reminiscent of stepping into a bygone era.

Strolling through its streets evokes a sense of time travel, transporting you to another era. The "town" of Ginzan Onsen is very compact, allowing one to traverse its entirety in around five minutes.

Positioned alongside the crystal-clear Ginzan-gawa River, the traditional Japanese ryokan inns, aged over a century, exude a captivating charm. The rows of wooden buildings contribute to the town's delightful ambiance.

The sight of gas lamps illuminating the streets at twilight, coupled with the snow-dusted tiles lining the pavements, creates an irresistible view that captures the gaze. The stark contrast with the modern buildings and structures of today serves as the epitome of this place's beauty.

Ginzan Onsen events
  • From May to October, every Saturday at 8:30 PM, the captivating Hanagasa Odori dance performance takes place on the bridge located at the heart of the hot spring town.

Getting to Ginzan Onsen

From Tokyo to Ginzan Onsen

Ginzan Onsen is easy to get to from Tokyo!
Ginzan Onsen is easy to get to from Tokyo!

・Bullet Train (Shinkansen):
Traveling from Tokyo to Ginzan Onsen is a journey of approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes via the JR Yamagata Shinkansen (Tsubasa). Once you arrive at JR Oishida Station, a 40-minute bus ride is required to reach Ginzan Onsen. It is important to note that the bus operates only five times a day, so it is advisable to check the timetable in advance to plan your trip accordingly.

To ensure convenience during your travel, we recommend utilizing either the Japan Rail Pass or the JR East Tohoku Area Pass. These passes provide seamless access to the necessary train services for reaching Ginzan Onsen.

・Highway Bus:
From the Yaesu Exit at Tokyo Station, you can catch highway buses bound for Sendai Station, with a travel time of approximately 5 to 6 hours. Upon reaching Sendai Station, transfer to the 'Yamako' bus (Tokkyu 48 Liner) heading to Shinjo, adding an extra 1 hour and 45 minutes to the journey. Get off at Obanazawa Machiaijo and then board the Obanazawa City Bus that goes to Ginzan Onsen, which will take an additional 35-45 minutes. While the trip may be lengthy, this bus route is recommended for those seeking a more budget-friendly option.

Certain ryokan in Ginzan Onsen offer complimentary pick-up and drop-off services from JR Oishida Station (reservation required). It is advisable to check in advance for availability. The following ryokan provide this convenient service:
- Senkyo no Yado – Ginzan-so
- Kosekiya Bekkan
- Waterfall and Soba Takimi-kan
- Ryokan Nagasawa Heihachi
- Kozankaku

Winter is the Best Season to Visit Ginzan Onsen

In winter, the streets of Ginzan Onsen are filled with wisps of steam, making for a dreamy cityscape
In winter, the streets of Ginzan Onsen are filled with wisps of steam, making for a dreamy cityscape

Ginzan Onsen is especially beautiful in winter. As the night sets in, walking along the streets of the onsen town reveals a picturesque scene with snow-covered pavements and the soft glow of gas lamps. The view is truly breathtaking and evokes a sense of awe. Many visitors specifically plan their trips during the peak travel season to witness the mesmerizing snow-covered landscape firsthand.

Ginzan Onsen Weather

Weather for the Ginzan Onsen area
Weather for the Ginzan Onsen area

During winter, Ginzan Onsen experiences chilly temperatures that often drop below freezing. It is essential to pack warm clothing, such as jackets, hats, and gloves, to stay comfortable in the cold. Additionally, due to potential slippery conditions, it is recommended to wear appropriate footwear for safety.

On the other hand, amidst Japan's scorching summer heat, Ginzan Onsen offers a refreshing escape. Nestled deep in the mountains, the town enjoys cooler temperatures, making it an ideal destination for exploration during the summer season.

Top 10 things to do in Ginzan Onsen

Obanazawa City Commerce and Tourism Association
Obanazawa City Commerce and Tourism Association

The most delightful and highly recommended activity in Ginzan Onsen is exploring the charming town itself. Capturing pictures along the snow-covered streets also provides a wonderful experience. As Ginzan Onsen is nestled in the mountains, darkness falls quite early, around 6:00 p.m., making sunset the optimal time for capturing picturesque photographs.

Additionally, immersing oneself in a "yukimi furo," an outdoor hot spring bath while surrounded by snow, is a must-try Japanese cultural experience. Securing reservations for an "rotenburo," an outdoor hot spring bath, can be challenging, so when you do, make the most of the opportunity to indulge in a soothing soak while enjoying the enchanting winter ambiance.

Another captivating aspect that draws tourists to Ginzan Onsen during winter is the abundance of snow. Located in an area known for heavy snowfall, snow begins to fall from early December. The heaviest snowfall occurs from January to February, persisting until mid-March. With snow depths often exceeding one meter, it is crucial to dress warmly and wear suitable footwear with anti-slip features.

In addition to the renowned ryokans and hot springs, Ginzan Onsen boasts a thriving culinary culture and offers countless sightseeing opportunities. The eateries and restaurants in the area contribute to its popularity.

Let's explore and discover the diverse attractions that Ginzan has to offer beyond its ryokans and hot springs!

1. Haikara-san Street

Of course, Ginzan Onsen has plenty of old shops with great foods to eat!
Of course, Ginzan Onsen has plenty of old shops with great foods to eat!

One notable delicacy among the various shops is the renowned curry bread from Haikarasan-dōri Street, priced at 210 yen. Made with locally produced "Nebarigoshi" wheat from Yamagata prefecture, this delectable treat is filled with curry and then fried to perfection. The exterior boasts a satisfying crispness and crunch, while the interior offers a soft, almost mochi-like texture.

The curry filling is generously portioned, providing a delightful spicy flavor that leaves a delicious aftertaste. Due to its immense popularity, this curry bread often sells out quickly, particularly by evening. To savor this scrumptious snack, it is advisable to visit the store early to secure a bite.

  • Haikarasan-dōri Street
    • Address 451, Ginzanshinhata, Obanazawa Shi, Yamagata Ken, 999-4333, Japan
    • Phone Number 0237-28-3888
    • ・Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. (subject to change in winter)
      ・Price: Curry bread 210 yen
      ・Closed: Open daily

2. Nogawa Tofu Shop

In addition to the curry bread, there is another long-standing establishment with a history of over a hundred years, known as "Nogawa Tofuya." This renowned tofu shop offers a specialty called "Tachi-kui Tofu" priced at 170 yen. The tofu is meticulously handmade every morning, and customers rave about its exceptional flavor and velvety texture. While the shop only offers takeout service, you can conveniently enjoy the tofu at the nearby rest point called "Warashiyu."

  • Nogawa Tofuya
    • Address 427, Ginzanshinhata, Obanazawa Shi, Yamagata Ken, 999-4333, Japan
    • Phone Number 0237-28-2494
    • ・Hours: 7:00 a.m. - Ends when sold out
      ・Price: Standing tofu 170 yen
      ・Closed: Irregular holidays

3. Izu-no-Hana

Soba at Izu-no-Hanza, a famous restaurant in Ginzan Onsen
Soba at Izu-no-Hanza, a famous restaurant in Ginzan Onsen

For a satisfying lunch, make your way to the restaurant "Izu-no-Hana" and indulge in their delightful soba dishes. You can relish the flavorful "Agenasu Oroshisoba," featuring soba topped generously with fried eggplant, priced at 1200 yen (excluding tax). Alternatively, you can opt for an extra-large serving of the renowned Yamagata Prefecture dish, "Itasoba," at 1500 yen (excluding tax) for 1.5 times the regular portion. Another delectable choice is the "Tenzaru Soba," which combines soba with fried prawns and vegetables, available at 1950 yen (excluding tax). Don't miss the opportunity to savor the regionally exclusive "Soba Soft Cream" for 380 yen (excluding tax), an ideal treat for tea time.

The menu also includes ramen, rice bowls, and tempura, on top of the soba items we recommended. You can also try some alcohol from Yamagata prefecture too.

  • Izu-no-Hana
    • Address 440, Ginzanshinhata, Obanazawa Shi, Yamagata Ken, 999-4333, Japan
    • Phone Number 0237-28-2036
    • ・Hours: 11:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m. (Lunch: up to 2:30 p.m., Cafe: 2:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m., Dinner: from 6:00 p.m.)
      ・Price: Fried eggplant grated soba 1200 yen
      ・Regular holiday: Wednesday (with occasional temporary holidays)

4. Warashiyu

4. Warashiyu

Just a five-minute walk from the Ginzan Onsen bus stop, right at the entrance of the onsen town, you'll find the Shirogane-bashi Bridge. Adjacent to the bridge is the popular tourist attraction known as "Warashiyu," a complimentary foot spa.

The foot spa utilizes the same natural water source as all the other onsens in the area, offering visitors an opportunity to experience the rejuvenating properties of these waters.

Since the foot spa is situated outdoors, the temperature can vary depending on the weather conditions. During hot summers, the water temperature in the foot spa can become considerably warm, so it is advisable to test the water with your hand before immersing your feet fully. This will ensure a comfortable and enjoyable foot soak experience.

  • Warashiyu
    • Address Ginzanshinhata, Obanazawa Shi, Yamagata Ken, 999-4333, Japan
    • ・TEL: 0237-28-3933 (Ginzan Onsen Tourist Information Center)
      ・Hours: Free bathing
      ・Price: Free
      ・Closed: Open daily

5. Public Bath Shirogane-yu

5. Public Bath Shirogane-yu

For those seeking a hot spring experience, "Public Bath Shirogane-yu" is a great destination. This distinctive triangular building is an architectural masterpiece designed by the renowned architect Kengo Kuma.

The bath itself is spacious, accommodating four to five people simultaneously. The water used in the bath is sourced directly from the natural hot springs. Although services may not be available in languages other than Japanese, the establishment still welcomes a regular stream of foreign visitors.

While shampoo and body soap are provided, it's important to note that towels are not available. Therefore, it is recommended to either bring your own towel or purchase one from the souvenir shops lining the street.

  • Public Bath Shirogane-yu
    • Address 433, Ginzanshinhata, Obanazawa Shi, Yamagata Ken, 999-4333, Japan
    • ・TEL: 0237-28-3933 (Ginzan Onsen Tourist Information Center)
      ・Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (last reception is at 4:30 p.m.)
      ・Fee: 500 yen (elementary school students: 200 yen)
      ・Closed: Irregular holidays

6. Shirogane-no-Taki Falls

Shirogane-no-Taki Falls
Shirogane-no-Taki Falls

Located in the heart of the town lies Shirogane-koen Park, a captivating attraction renowned for its 22-meter-tall waterfall, Shirogane-no-Taki Falls.

As the falls descend, they divide into two streams. On one side, a rapid and frothy waterfall plunges down, while on the other side, a gentle stream flows serenely. This natural phenomenon enthralls visitors with its dynamic contrast.

An observation deck along the shore provides an excellent vantage point to admire the majestic waterfall. By following the designated walking path, one can feel an increasing proximity to the cascading water, enhancing the immersive experience.

Throughout the seasons, the falls are surrounded by lush foliage, with bright green leaves in spring and summer, fiery red hues in autumn, and a picturesque winter scene resembling a traditional Japanese painting. The ever-changing vistas offer year-round beauty, ensuring that whenever you visit, you will witness a breathtaking spectacle.

  • Shirogane Falls
    • Address Ginzanshinhata, Obanazawa Shi, Yamagata Ken, 999-4333, Japan
    • ・Hours: Open all day
      ・Price: Free
      ・Closed: Open daily

7. Taki-no-Fudoson

7. Taki-no-Fudoson

Explore further into Shirogane Park and you will discover 'Taki-no-Fudoson,' a charming abode dedicated to the guardian deity of Shirogane Falls. As you navigate the park, please be aware that there are steep slopes and uneven terrain, making it essential to wear sturdy outdoor shoes for a comfortable visit.

8. Cafe I'rasgayna

Cafe I'rasgayna is a great place where you can rent a kimono in Ginzan Onsen
Cafe I'rasgayna is a great place where you can rent a kimono in Ginzan Onsen

Cafe I'rasgayna, a kimono and hakama rental shop, is highly popular not only among Japanese visitors but also among foreigners. Despite the absence of foreign language services, the shop attracts many tourists who are part of organized tour groups. With an extensive collection of kimono and hakama, traditional Japanese pants, available in various colors and patterns, you will be delighted by the abundance of options. Selecting the perfect ensemble is a delightful experience, and you can also rent accessories like bags and umbrellas. The shop also provides assistance in wearing the kimono, alleviating any concerns about the process. Embrace the opportunity to adorn yourself in one of Japan's iconic attire and capture unforgettable memories as you wander through this enchanting onsen town.

  • Cafe I'rasgayna
    • Address 438, Ginzanshinhata, Obanazawa Shi, Yamagata Ken, 999-4333, Japan
    • Phone Number 0237-28-2811
    • ・Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
      ・Price: 2000 yen for transformation course (60 minutes), 500 yen added for every 30 minutes extension
      ・Closed: Irregular holidays (closed in winter)

9. Kaminohatayaki Pottery Center

9. Kaminohatayaki Pottery Center

Across Japan, the town of Obanazawa has gained notable recognition for its association with Kaminohata-yaki Ware, a renowned ceramics producer. These exquisite ceramics are easily identifiable by the skillful indigo blue dye applied onto a white base, crafted using Ginzan ore.

Aside from acquiring these artisanal treasures for yourself, Kami Hatayaki offers beginner ceramics painting classes, allowing you to create a personalized keepsake that will hold special memories of your Yamagata adventure. Reservations are required for these classes.

To reach the center, board the municipal bus from Oishida Station bound for Ginzan Onsen. After approximately 30 minutes, alight at the Ginzan Onsen Tougei Center Mae bus stop, and you will find the Kaminohata-yaki Ware Pottery Center conveniently located nearby.

  • Kaminohatayaki Pottery Center
    • Address 162-1, Ginzanshinhata, Obanazawa, Yamagata, 999-4333, Japan
    • Phone Number 0237-28-2159
    • ・Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
      ・Price: From 1,000 yen per person
      ・Closed: Wednesdays

10. Taisho Romankan

10. Taisho Romankan

If you're seeking the perfect memento to capture the essence of your Yamagata journey, look no further than Taisho Romankan! Situated just a 5-minute walk away from the Ginzan Onsen Tougei Center Mae bus stop, this shop offers a diverse selection of local goods, ranging from sweets to sake and beyond.

If hunger strikes, indulge in their delectable local breads, including the delightful anpan, a sweet bean jam-filled bread, and their signature 'age-pan,' a fried jam bread (230 yen). These treats are sure to satisfy your cravings. For a more substantial meal, Taisho Romankan also houses a restaurant with an extensive menu, making it an excellent choice for a lunchtime stopover.

  • Taisho Romankan
    • Address 99-4332 Yamagata, Obanazawa, Kamiyanagiwatarido
    • Phone Number 0237-53-6727
    • ・Store Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
      ・Restaurant Hours: 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (last order at 4:00 p.m.)

Staying at Ginzan Onsen: 5 Recommended ryokan hotels

Unwinding in a warm outdoor onsen deep in the alps – that’s the real Japan dream! For those yearning for this unforgettable experience, Ginzan Onsen in Yamagata is an absolute must-visit destination.

This nostalgic town provides the perfect sanctuary from bustling city life, boasting a plethora of picturesque hot springs and charming Japanese ryokan hotels. To assist in planning your stay, here are some highly recommended accommodations in Ginzan Onsen.

While some can be booked online, others may require reservations via phone or their respective websites.

1. Notoya Ryokan

Don't just make Ginzan Onsen a day trip - stay overnight to really maximize the magic!
Don't just make Ginzan Onsen a day trip - stay overnight to really maximize the magic!

One of Ginzan’s most famous ryokan, Notoya Ryokan is like something from a Ghibli film! A registered cultural property of Japan, the building is full of tantalizing details and hidden gems that never seem to end!

This includes the intricate plaster relief carving on the side of the building’s front, along with the 100-year-old central lookout tower. Don’t miss out on taking a dip in their outdoor bath, which overlooks the renowned ‘Shirogane Falls.’

2. Kosekiya Bekkan

2. Kosekiya Bekkan

With a nostalgic aura and refined design, Kosekiya Bekkan, in the heart of Ginzan, is a top pick for Yamagata locals! Lodgers can choose between rooms by the river or the mountains, with river-siders getting to enjoy the tranquil sounds of the river flow, while those overlooking the mountains can bask in the region’s jaw-dropping natural grandeur.

Inside Kosekiya are two free-flowing thermal onsen baths to enjoy. If that’s not enough, overnight customers can also use the baths of sister ryokan ‘Ginzan-so’ for free! Ginzan-so boasts an outdoor rotenburo style onsen with majestic mountain views, so definitely don’t pass on this opportunity!

  • Kosekiya Bekkan
    • Address 417 Ginzanshinhata, Obanazawa, Yamagata 999-4333
    • Phone Number 0237-28-2322

3. Kozankaku

3. Kozankaku

For a more casual onsen experience, the fittingly named ‘Legendary Ryokan: Kozankaku,’ offers guests two private onsen rooms, making it perfect for families, friends, or those who just want some time alone!

The ryokan is split between the original building and the new building, with the new building boasting swanky western-style rooms complete with proper beds and toilets. The windows offer a view of the entire town, which is made even more romantic at night when the gas lanterns are lit up!

  • Dentonoyado Kozankaku
    伝統の宿 古山閣
    • Address 423, Ginzanshinhata, Obanazawa Shi, Yamagata Ken, 999-4333, Japan
    • Phone Number 0237-28-2039

4. Ryokan Fujiya

4. Ryokan Fujiya

One of the most stylish ryokans in Ginzan, the eye-catching wooden lattices of Fujiya are unmissable! Renovated in 2006 by legendary Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, each room is fitted with carefully designed indirect lighting, creating an entrancing atmosphere. For those wanting an escape from the plain and everyday, this ryokan will transport you to another world!
Fujiya boasts 5 indoor onsen, all of which are private! While the semi-outdoor rotenburo bath needs to be reserved in advance, the others can be used freely, as long as no one else is already inside! For a truly unique ryokan experience, there’s nowhere more suitable than Fujiya!

5. Senkyonoyado Ginzan-so

5. Senkyonoyado Ginzan-so

Loved for the spectacular mountain and lake views from its outdoor onsen, Ginzan-so is the choice place in Ginzan to fully relish the beauty of each season. Even when the view disappears at night, the delicately-crafted lighting arrangement creates an enchanting atmosphere, making night-bathing an equal treat for the senses!

The rooms are all traditional Japanese tatami rooms, so you’re getting a 100% authentic experience! If you don’t want to step out from the privacy of your room, rooms with semi-outdoor baths are available, so you’ll never have to leave! For breakfast and dinner, mouthwatering Obanazawa wagyu along with seasonal homemade dishes are on the menu.

  • Ginzanso
    銀山温泉・仙峡の宿 銀山荘
    • Address 85 Ginzan Shimbata, Obanazawa, Yamagata 999-4333
    • Phone Number 0237-28-2322

No matter the season, Ginzan Onsen is worth the trip!

Every Saturday evening from May to October, the captivating echoes of "yassho, massho" can be heard as dancers gracefully sway to the rhythm of the traditional Yamagata dance known as "Hanagasa Odori." The performance commences at 8:30 p.m. and enchants spectators for approximately 20 minutes. Don't miss this exclusive cultural experience, unique to Yamagata!

Within the onsen town, three designated areas offer complimentary Wi-Fi, allowing you to connect for up to 60 minutes per session, three times a day. Additionally, several ryokans provide Wi-Fi access throughout their premises.

While a limited number of shops may not offer services in foreign languages, the "Ginza Onsen Sightseeing Map" available at the entrance of the onsen town includes translations in various languages.

Moreover, you can rent a portable voice and audio translation device called "ili" for your convenience during your visit. Feel free to borrow one and make the most of your experience.

  • Ginzan Onsen
    • Address Yamagata Prefecture Obanazawa City Yamagata Large Ginzan Shinhata, 999-4333
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Oishida Station (Ou Line / Yamagata Shinkansen)
    • Phone Number 0237-28-3933

Text by: SHOE PRESs

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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